40mm vs 50mm Drivers: Why Choose One Over the Other

Drivers are the most important parts of a headphone, don’t you agree? They convert electrical signals to soundwaves letting you hear the audio. 

But just looking at the specs may not mean you know the audio quality of a headphone. 

For example, if you are given the option of 40mm vs 50mm drivers, how would you know which one better suits your needs? 

We’ll see that in just a moment. 

Components and Working of Headphone Drivers

Three components:

  • Magnet
  • Voice coils
  • Diaphragm

When electric signals (which is how audio is transmitted in most headphones) reaches the headphone, the electromagnetic voice coils rapidly undergo polarity shifts. 

This causes it to vibrate, because of the presence of the magnet which has a permanent polarity (remember that opposite poles attract and the same poles deflect). 

The vibrations are captured by the diaphragm attached to the voice coils. There, it is converted to sound waves that reach our ears.

40mm vs 50mm Drivers: What does it mean to have a bigger driver?

The tendency is to assume better sound quality with increasing size, but this always may not be. These are the important factors that influence the quality of sound in a headphone:

  • The tuning of the headphone
  • Its build quality, like the materials used and the sound isolation
  • The no. of drivers used in an earcup
  • Size and type of drivers
  • Design quality

Seeing that it is only one of the elements influencing sound quality, in what areas do driver size affect headphone user experience?

  1. Bass Response

The main difference between 40mm and 50mm drivers is their bass response. The bigger driver would generally have a bigger diaphragm, which means that there is a slightly better bass response than the 40mm driver.

  1. Mids and Trebles

On the other hand, the 40mm driver will have better mids and trebles than the bigger model, and its bass will be adequate for the average music lover. 

  1. Larger Sound Output

The other major difference is that of larger sound output from a 50mm driver. It gives a higher frequency than the 40mm drivers and is expected to be truly more immersive. 

  1. Size of the Headphone’s Earcup

Larger drivers end up making bulkier headphones, as you well know. The one good thing that can come out of a bigger earcup size is comfort–if the headphone is built lightweight.

Bigger earcups mean over-the-ear headphones, which means no ear-pain after continuous use. 

On the other hand, if the headphone is not carefully built, the bigger earcup can have larger weight. This will ultimately impact the user experience.

Some 40mm Driver Headphones List

50mm Headphones List

You Might Also Like To Read: What is Driver Size in Headphones?

Final Verdict–Which one to choose?

Ultimately, there are three important factors that distinguish 40mm and 50mm drivers–their bass response, sound output (not sound quality), and the earcup size of the headphone. 

So 40mm vs 50mm, which should you choose? 

Combined with the other factors that influence the sound quality, you may choose either of those driver sizes. But according to your type of use, we do have some recommendations.

If you are an avid audiobook listener and music lover, choose the 40mm driver headphones. You will get much clearer sounds with it. 

If you are an avid gamer or a basshead and do not care much about the mids and trebles of your audio, go for 50mm drivers

The true over-the-ear headphones will be better for the extended hours of gaming, and the better bass response will make games more expressive. 

Hope this helped you!

Vitaly Fedorov

Vitaly Fedorov is a seasoned audio technician and writer. After spending ten years in a studio team, I have decided to spread my knowledge to people in this domain. On this site, I work for headphone fixing or repair issues, that you’re thinking about fixing. Click on any article on my site and read the complete answer about that issue. I am excited to read your feedback.

Recent Posts